China on Thursday criticized New Zealand for “baseless” allegations of mistreatment of Uighurs and underlined Wellington’s struggle to find a compromise between its largest trading partner and its traditional Western allies.
Beijing expressed outrage after New Zealand’s parliament passed a watered-down motion on Wednesday expressing “grave concern” about human rights abuses against the Muslim Uighur minority in China’s Xinjiang province.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ruling Labor Party insisted that any reference to genocide be removed from a secondary opposition party proposal, but the move failed to placate the Chinese embassy in Wellington.
The embassy said in a statement that New Zealand’s parliament is interfering in matters relating to China’s sovereignty.
“This move openly interferes in China’s internal affairs and contravenes international law and basic norms that govern international relations,” she added.
The Chinese side regrets and firmly rejects such measures.
The embassy said the proposal would harm the mutual trust between China and New Zealand.
At least one million Uighurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in Xinjiang, according to right-wing groups accusing authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and using forced labor.
Ardern’s center-left government condemned the abuses in a much lower voice than its allies, leading to allegations that it is a weak link in the US-led Five Eyes coalition, which includes the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Ardern acknowledged this week that New Zealand’s differences with China over human rights are “more difficult to resolve,” but said her government would continue to clarify areas of concern to Beijing.
However, allies such as Australia have been more vocal in their criticism, which has resulted in Beijing imposing punitive duties on more than a dozen Australian imports, including wine and barley.
China suspended regular bilateral trade talks with Australia on Thursday in what Canberra called “disappointing”.